Mark Applebaum's Sound-Sculptures

Applebaum plays the Mouseketier

Mark Applebaum is a musician and composer who teaches at Stanford University. He's built a variety of "sound-sculptures," electronic musical instruments built from found objects, which look bizarre and sound even more bizarre:

The instruments consist of threaded rods, nails, wire strings stretched through a series of pulleys and turnbuckles, plastic combs, bronze braising rod blow-torched and twisted, doorstops, shoehorns, ratchets, steel wheels, springs, lead and PVC pipe, corrugated copper plumbing tube, Astroturf, parts from a Volvo gearbox, a metal Schwinn bicycle logo, and, indeed, mousetraps. It was great fun to collect this stuff and particularly satisfying to cause anxiety and suspicion among the hardware clerks who nervously eyed me as I conducted investigations of the acoustical properties of their wares. It was a feeling of accomplishment when, weeks into my research, the same salesmen would excitedly welcome me into the store, giddy with their own myopia-shedding epiphanies: "Mark, listen to how this thing sounds when you hit it with this!" My project became an informal and unexpected arts outreach program.

I play the sound-sculptures with my hands and with a number of different strikers and gadgets including Japanese chopsticks, knitting needles, combs, thimbles, plectrums, surgical tubing, a violin bow, and various wind-up toys, tops, etc. Located in the midst of the sculptures is a mixer and a small rack of electronic signal processors with their associated triggering pedals, mostly junky analog delays, early-era pitch transposers, unnatural reverbs, and the like. Signal-to-noise ratio has never been my greatest concern.

The original sound-sculpture was called the Mousetrap (as in, "to build a better . . ."), and subsequent instruments have continued the mouse-pun theme. This clip of Applebaum on the Mouseketier is from a concert at Stanford in 2005. Watch at least until the violin bow comes out.

Pluck Play or go to YouTube

Link to Applebaum's website


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